Haggerty: Lucic shouldn't change a thing


Haggerty: Lucic shouldn't change a thing

WILMINGTON, Mass. The one thing Milan Lucic cant do in the face of greater NHL scrutiny is change the way he plays the game.

Milan Lucic forcibly sat out his first game of the season Monday night against the Montreal Canadiens after he was suspended by the league for a boarding call on Philadelphia Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo. The play itself appeared to be boarding to the naked eye and was tagged with a five-minute major and game misconduct at the time, and Brendan Shanahan tacked on a game for good measure.

Shanahan mentioned Lucics prior history of warnings and fines for a handful of previous incidents leading up to the suspension, and theres little doubt his demolition derby hit on Ryan Miller played into the most recent penalty. The one-game vacation actually wasnt the worst thing in the world to give the left winger a breather in the middle of a season that will be getting very busy for the Bruins during the month of January.

Lucic even joked that the boarding hit got him a key role as a bomb-tossing villain in the HBO 247: Road to the Winter Classic with Wayne Simmonds chasing after like a faux tough guy after the refs stepped in between the two players.

Got my name on HBO, so I guess you get on that show any way you can, right? said a smiling Lucic, who watched the new episode on Wednesday night.

But its not something Lucic wants to get used to, or experience more of in growing increments. Its not something he wants to see, its not something that fans want to see and its certainly not a softness that the Bs coaching staff wants to watch creep into Lucics power-packed game.

Were going to make sure we let him know that we dont want him to change his style, said Claude Julien. The suspension was because of different things. One was a playoff thing that had nothing do with a hit, and the other was a collision with Miller that maybe when they looked back on it they felt like they should have called him for that. Maybe if it had it would have diminished this last suspension, but were just going to ask him to go out and play.

Were a physical team and we dont want that to creep out of our game. The NHL doesnt want that element to creep out of that game either. We want to manage it the best way we can, but you certainly dont want players playing afraid to finish off their checks.

On the other hand, Lucic cant turn his back from the player that leads the Bruins with 73 registered hits this season either. The power forward has led the Bruins over the past four years with 751 registered hits while averaging 188 body checks per season over that four season span that includes an injury-plagued season two years ago.

Thats a ton of demolition derby style hockey hits without any suspensions or egregious acts to injure fellow players, so theres plenty of evidence that Lucic is doing things the right way.

Some players feed on the physicality and emotion between the whistles, and Lucic is one of those emotionally nourished players. The power forwards worst spells in the NHL have come when he drifts away from the body checks and unrelenting intimidation his size and strength combo would suggest.

So altering his game after a standout four-year career thats seen him collect a 30-goal season, a Stanley Cup and a reputation as one of the most fearsome players in the NHL isnt going to happen.

I cant change my game, said Lucic. I play with a lot of emotion and I do everything I can to keep it safe and follow the guidelines of the new hitting protocol. Obviously a big part of my game is being physical and creating emotion, and I cant lose that part of my game. Thats for sure.

One could imagine what would happen if Lucic suddenly became gun shy or hesitant when it come to punishing defensemen with merciless forechecks. Or if Lucic suddenly avoided standing up for teammates such as the Rinaldo case when he sped to Nathan Hortons defense after two Flyers players -- including Rinaldo -- attempted a Malachi crunch on Lucics linemate.

Lucic is able to do all of these things on the edge of good, honest hockey without continually going over the edge, and that was the point he most clearly tried to get across to Shanahan during their phone conversation.

Obviously you dont want to hear from Shanahan again and I was upset that I had to go through that whole process. Its not a guy you want to talk to too much for those reasons, said Lucic. But I wanted to make clear that I understand what hes trying to do and I also understand that Im doing everything I can to make dangerous hits. Thats what Im trying to do in that conversation.

Lucic has five seasons, 300 plus games and more than 800 hits in a respect hockey career without any previous regular season suspensions to vouch for the way he plays the game. So there is ample evidence the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder shouldnt change a thing despite the NHL microscope he now finds himself under following his first instance being Shanabanned.

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

BOSTON, Mass – Malcolm Subban says that he believes that he can still be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

While that’s admirable on some level for the sheer, brazen self-confidence involved in saying this after getting yanked from a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden, pretty much all of the evidence points out the contrary. Nearly two years after getting pulled from his NHL debut in against the St. Louis Blues after giving up three goals on six shots, Subban was pulled from Tuesday night’s appearance after giving up three goals on eight second period shots with the Bruins desperately in need of a quality start in goal.

He maintained a defiantly confident tone after another humbling NHL effort against Minnesota, and that’s a testament to the maturity and mental toughness of the person behind the goalie mask.

“It sucks. Obviously, I’m just trying to finish the game, let alone win one. Obviously it sucks, but what can you do now, right?” said Subban, who has now allowed six goals on 22 career shots faced in two starts. “Obviously I want to be a number one goaltender in the league. I was a high pick for a reason. I have the potential, and I just have to show it. Obviously I haven’t done that so far yet, but I think I’m getting closer to it. Honestly, I think I can do it right now. I just got to show it. Obviously, I didn’t [do it] today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Given the stunningly bad quality of his two NHL starts combined with a thoroughly pedestrian body of work at the AHL level over the last three years, there is literally zero tangible evidence Subban is tracking to be a franchise goaltender. Instead he’s the emergency goaltender called on by the Bruins only after Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin have both been shelved by injuries, and he’s now flunked the two pop quizzes when the NHL team needed him to come through.

Meanwhile, a sizeable selection of goaltenders taken after him in the 2012 NHL Draft class have already proven their NHL worth and broken through at the elite level: Matt Murray, Frederik Anderson, Connor Hellebuyck and Joonas Korpisalo.

Subban was hoping all along to break through this season in Boston, but things went south on him quickly with a Bruins team not playing well in front of him. The first goal was a fluttering Charlie Coyle shot that trickled between his glove hand and the top of his leg pad. The third goal was a softie low and to the glove side, power play strike authored by Ryan Suter. It added up to poor goaltending and shoddy defense, but it also added up to a Bruins goaltender that didn’t even give his hockey club a chance to win.

“It could be a combination of both. There are some goals – I’m not going to lie – there are some goals that we thought our goaltenders should have had. But I’m not here to talk about a goaltender who’s in one of his first few games because he let in a couple of bad goals,” said Julien. “We were terrible in front of him and we weren’t any better, and that’s the big picture. That’s more important.

“I don’t care who’s in net. I think when you have some injuries you need to be better in those situations and we weren’t good enough tonight. It doesn’t matter if Tuukka [Rask] is in net and we had injuries up front, or we’re lacking players here or there. You’ve got to let the system take care of the game. If you play it the right way, you have a chance to win. When you don’t, you don’t. That’s what happened [against Minnesota].”

There’s no question the defense in front of Subban wasn’t nearly good enough, and Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug in particular struggled to lock things down in the defensive zone. The wide open shots from the slot - like the Chris Stewart score in the second period that arrived 12 seconds after Minnesota’s opening goal - are indicative of a hockey club that’s not sticking to the game plan once things start to get a little wonky.

But this is about a player in Subban that should be entering the NHL stage of his career after being a first round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, and anybody would be hard-pressed to see him as an NHL goalie after failing in each of his first two NHL starts. Combine that with the lack of dominance at the AHL level over the last three years, and there’s a better chance that Subban will be a major first round bust for the Bruins rather than suddenly develop into a late-blooming No. 1 goaltender in Boston.

The scary part is that Subban and fellow young netminder Zane McIntyre are all the Bruins have for Wednesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden, and perhaps longer than that if Rask can’t make rapid progress with his lower body injury.

Maybe Subban can be a bit better than he’s shown thus far, and the four goals allowed to Minnesota were not all his fault. The bottom line, however, is that Subban should be up for doing this job right now. Tuesday was a big chance for the young goalie to make a statement that he was ready for it.

Instead he looked like the same goalie that’s been pulled from two of his first four AHL starts this season, and plays like a goaltender that’s never going to truly be ready for the call in Boston.